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How rich is too rich? Visual design elements in digital marketing communications

Yashar Bashirzadeh, Robert Mai and Corinne Faure

International Journal of Research in Marketing, 2022, vol. 39, issue 1, 58-76

Abstract: Companies are increasingly including innovative visual design elements such as animations and pictographs in digital communication. While both elements can be beneficial in exchanges with their customers, we propose that combining them can have negative effects on communication effectiveness. Animations and pictographs enhance digital communication, essentially through increased perceptions of enrichment, but these elements also raise perceptions of clutter. As they enrich a message in unique ways, processing these different types of visual design elements requires distinct cognitive resources such that, when combined, clutter perceptions dominate the recipient’s perceptions and behaviors, thus paradoxically offsetting their positive effects. This interplay may not only undermine message outcomes but even spill over to downstream behavioral outcomes. In a large-scale randomized field experiment in cooperation with a mobile app company, we find that including animations (GIFs) and pictographs (emojis) together damages message outcomes (increasing unsubscriptions) and downstream outcomes (reducing in-app time) compared with what happens when these elements are deployed separately. We elaborate on the processing of the text and visual elements from this field experiment in two lab experiments, including an eye-tracking study. Finally, in two further online studies, we seek to establish whether the proposed mechanisms depend on the number of visuals or the types of pictographs employed.

Keywords: Digital marketing; Pictographs; Animation; Field experiment; Clutter; Enrichment (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2022
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DOI: 10.1016/j.ijresmar.2021.06.008

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